Date: 14 July 2017
Location: Viking Akun Volga-Baltic Waterway heading for Kizhi Island
We sailed overnight and we are not due to arrive at Kizhi Island till around 15.00.
At 11.00 we both went to the third lecture on Russian History. The first of these was on the Romanov Dynasty. The second lecture was on the period from The Russian Revolution to Gorbachev. Today’s lecture was given by Alexei, and it was about the period from Yeltsin to the present day. It clarified for me quite a few things. The extremely powerful position of the Russian President largely results from measures introduced by Yeltsin. After two four year terms Putin and Medvedev essentially swapped places as President and Prime Minister. While Medvedev was President he increased the presidential term to 6 years. This explains why Putin’s current repeat first term as President doesn’t end till next year. The lecture also made clearer for me the dispute between Ukraine and Russia. The reason why Russia was so keen to acquire Crimea was explained. Crimea was originally part of Russia, but it seems Khrushchev essentially gave Crimea to Ukraine when he was in power for political reasons. Having Crimea gives Russia access to the Black Sea. They are currently completing a bridge across the strait between Crimea and the rest of Russia.
Our visit to Kizhi Island was really enjoyable—all the more so because the weather was warm and sunny. This was despite the fact that we were at the northernmost part of our trip: 62 degrees north. The main attraction of Kizhi is the complex of two wooden churches and a bell tower. The larger Transfiguration Church normally has a spectacular roof with 22 domes. Unfortunately, the roof is being restored, so the middle part has been replaced by scaffolding! You also can’t get inside that church at present. The smaller Church of the Intercession is used as a Winter church because it can be heated more readily. It has quite an impressive roof too and the interior has an icon wall, like other Russian churches, though less ornate. The rest of the island has been turned into an open air museum with over 80 historical wooden structures, including the house of a rich merchant and a windmill. There is also a small chapel with bells that they have rung by a professional bell ringer: a really quite impressive performance.
After we got back to the boat there was a party on the sun deck before dinner. After another excellent meal that we spent talking to Sandy from Canada (a head teacher married to a banker) and her mother. After dinner there was a quiz that we didn’t participate in. We sat next to Isabel (a Scottish teacher who has lived in New Zealand for 20 years) and her husband, as well as a couple from Australia that they cruise with every year.
Wosog and I were actually up dancing at the end of the evening and much alcohol was imbibed.